Every path, no matter how long and winding it can be, has a horizon. Every long walk, no matter how tiring and tedious it is for a small child walking with her parents, ends at an unforeseen destination, like the boardwalk.
I was a happy child who tried not to cause too much trouble, but I admit that I grew tired of the never-ending boardwalk promenades that my parents insisted upon. I had a valid reason for being distracted, for alongside the wooden path was a child’s wonderland: Victoria Park, complete with slides, swimming pools and an endless expanse of greenery. Alas, the park remained a dream and the worn, wooden path a reality.
Starting at the lighthouse that never seemed to have light, we walked and walked, past all the other cars parked on the road, past the park, and sometimes (to my chagrin), past the Kiwani’s ice cream place (the other wonderland). And on we’d go until we got to the end. Then we walked back, and I looked at the smiles of the children merrily frolicking in the park and I thought to myself that this was a whole lot of meaningless walking with no clear end in sight.
As I grew older and wiser, I’d walk the same battered boardwalk, but I noticed that the journey I embarked on changed each time. When the tide was high, I feared the water would spill over and drown us all, and when it was low, I desired to swipe a few mussels from the rust colored, sandy shore. Some walks, you would befriend a friendly stranger or maybe encounter a familiar face, and other times it was just you and the sea. The cannons stood honoring the Île Saint-Jean of yore, the boats went and stayed on the harbor, and the widow’s walk would always greet you at the end of your journey. On the outside, the boardwalk may have been made of wood, but it was as solid and unyielding as a rock. Underneath the sturdy surface teemed a dynamic atmosphere that was never the same for two people, and that atmosphere was the reason that I always kept on walking down that rickety wooden course.
The boardwalk was a constant, but every person who came there had a different reason to walk down the two and a half mile route. Perhaps it was a place, like it was for my parents, to blow off the pressures of daily life, or it was a good place to train for the upcoming hockey season, but to me, it was somewhere where I could see all of Prince Edward Island surrounding me and gaze upon my home. The horizon was always there, and looking out onto it, you never saw the same two sunsets or sunrises, but the boardwalk was always there for you to enjoy the endless possibilities of life. Theseus once questioned whether taking a ship apart and replacing every piece would make it the same ship, and in a way the boardwalk and P.E.I. are the same. They may change with the ways of the world, but they fundamentally remain that same place that you grow to love in your heart.
Or perhaps I think too much, and the boardwalk is simply a place, nothing more or nothing less. However, places like this exist everywhere, where a simple trek can resemble the vicissitudes of life themselves. So there’s nothing to do but keep walking, down the long and winding way.
Details: Victoria Park boardwalk, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
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